Two years ago, one of the hottest properties at Sundance was Kevin Smith’s “Red State.” The narrative unfolded as usual: high-profile premiere, studios deliberate buying it, bidding war commences. Afterwards, however, Smith sold the movie to himself … for $20 causing a big hubbub and quite a few eye-rolls and head-shakes.
It was an attempt to make a statement on how backwards the studios’ distribution systems really are and how hard it is for filmmakers to tell the story they want. But honestly, could there have been a worse movie for anyone to make that claim with? If the studios keep all movies like “Red State” from getting made or distributed, you might not be too upset about that after actually watching the film itself.
It’s an absolutely dreadful movie that has no class or restraint. Smith critiques the Westboro Baptist Church, the notorious anti-gay protestors led by Fred Phelps, as a bunch of backwards ignoramuses – as if the rest of the world didn’t already know that. Perhaps a parody or a spoof would have been the more appropriate vehicle. Though I’ve never seen “Clerks” or any of Smith’s other films, I’ve heard he’s quite the humorist.
This is the kind of unintentional humor that usually plagues bad movies such as these. I’m sure some of it might have been planned, in which case Smith proved himself to be a poor imitator of Quentin Tarantino’s darkly comedic talents. I think he probably wishes “Red State” was something like “Inglourious Basterds” with gratuitous violence aplenty dealt out to the hated villains.
And I suppose it’s a fairly vile turn from Michael Parks as the Fred Phelps surrogate, but it’s not like I got any satisfaction out of seeing all the massive bloodshed done to him and his lunatic disciples. Mainly, I just wanted to see the conclusion of the horror story at the core of “Red State,” featuring Michael Angarano and his two buds following a sex ad but leading them to the Five Points Trinity Church. But by the time ATF shows up, all narrative and story are thrown out the window to let the bullets fly. Oh, and there’s also some criticism of the corrupt government at the end that just feels totally out of place given the rest of the film.
When the dust settles, all that’s left are a lot of corpses and a lingering disappointment in the air. Nothing to cheer about there. And for the record, I don’t think I’d buy this movie for 20¢.